Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in support of H3504, the 209A Reform Bill

By Mark Charalambous

May 18, 1999

Honorable committee chairman and committee members,

Good afternoon. I am Mark Charalambous, one of the founders of the Fatherhood Coalition, formerly known as Coalition for the Preservation of Fatherhood when we began in 1994. I wrote H3504, the 209A Reform Bill.

At this hearing, three significant issues are being addressed. I wonder if the advocates of the partial-birth abortion ban, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the 209A Reform Bill know they share two things in common.

First, we have been lumped together with others who hold politically incorrect viewpoints.

The second thing we share here today is common opponents; those that seek to undermine the nuclear family. The weakest link in the family is the father-child relationship. (That's biology.) Anti-fatherhood is inherently anti-family. We speak of divorced and unwed fathers as "throwaway dads," because that expression accurately expresses the attitude that the courts, the legislature-and certainly the Governor-hold for us. Currently two out of five children in the U.S. will go to sleep tonight without kissing their dads goodnight. That's where we are now. The Fatherhood Coalition believes this trend must be reversed. Yet there are significant and powerful forces arrayed against us.

Today the nuclear family is under attack in Washington, DC as it is in State Houses across the nation. Heterosexuality and the nuclear family are not arbitrary social conventions. Marriage is not a reflection of an evil patriarchy that oppresses women. It is the social analog of sexual reproduction, a biological process that evolved long before there were cities or even human societies. The nuclear family is the atomic unit of civilization itself.

This legislature has given knee-jerk assent to the forces of social engineering, those that believe they know better than anyone else how people should live; those who believe that they can legislate to enlighten us, to disabuse us of our backward ideas, to update our parochial institutions, correct our mistakes ... and even correct nature's "mistakes."

With respect to domestic violence, they have led you to believe that there is an epidemic of violence against women. They have created a climate of fear and loathing where girls are conditioned to fear boys, and where boys are made to feel not only inferior to girls, but also somehow defective, requiring medication and therapy.

209A was established to provide protection for women from domestic violence. Battered women's advocates tell you that 95 or 97 percent of victims are women victimized by their male partners. They have convinced you that if a husband gets angry at his wife and yells at her-no matter what the cause-he will eventually kill her unless preventative measures are taken. This is their theory of "ever-escalating violence," one of their tenets.

They have told you that fully one third of all women who seek medical treatment at hospital emergency rooms are there because of domestic violence.

It's a lie. They know it's a lie, but they believe that even though it's a lie, it's good for you to believe it-because their cause is righteous. If the issue were anything other than domestic violence you would easily recognize these people for what they are. If the issue were religion, you would know them as zealots and fanatics. If it was race they would be easily identified as racist hate-mongers. But they're feminists, and the object of their demonization is men. And so you listen to them, you throw money at them, you legislate their agenda, even though all scientific studies since 1978 show that women are at least as likely as men to initiate violence with their intimates; that the majority of all victims of domestic violence are children-and most of their victimizers single mothers; that the percentage of women who seek emergency medical treatment in hospitals is not one third or 30 percent, not even 3 percent, but closer to 0.3 percent, making that claim of the battered women advocates an inflation of 10,000 percent! As a man, and as a father, I consider these claims hate speech.

Because of 209A, men are imprisoned for trying to talk to their children on the telephone. This is interpreted as "abuse" when proscribed by a 209A order.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need sanity in 209A. Presently it is a blank check for an aggrieved party to cause harm to another. It is increasingly being used by men against women. Bad law is bad law. 209A is a double-edged sword, as some women are now discovering when they have been beaten to the courthouse by their estranged partners. And make no mistake about it, men in abusive relationships are being advised to get that restraining order first.

When is this committee going to act responsibly and recommend 209A reform? If not now, when? This package contains some minor changes that will go a long way to eliminating the incentives for fraud, while not weakening the protections for those that are truly in danger.

Thank you.


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